Tony McCoy feels Purple Bay can really test the unbeaten Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton today, the Ulsterman's festive showpiece given that he doesn't have a ride in the King George.
Silviniaco Conti and Champagne Fever will slug it out in the £200,000 feature, but McCoy's Purple Bay should put up a good show in the Christmas Hurdle after taking took his form to a new level when staying on strongly to win the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last time out.
That race is remembered for Irving's last flight fall but the way Purple Bay finished off, Paul Nicholls' charge would have had to be at the top of his game to fend off John Ferguson's five-year-old.
While McCoy - closing in on a 20th successive champion jockey title - thinks it is unlikely Willie Mullins' Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen will be beaten, he believes Purple Bay might be the one to give him most to do.
"Faugheen won well at Ascot over two-miles-three and he's a very smart horse," said the 40-year-old.
"He won over three miles last year, dropped down to two and a half to win at Cheltenham and then two miles at Punchestown.
"His form is very solid and he's a worthy Champion Hurdle favourite.
"The others have to step up. Irving was a good enough winner of the Fighting Fifth but this is a step up again.
"My ride Purple Bay was a good winner at Wincanton and while Faugheen is the one to beat I think Purple Bay is most likely to chase him home.
"I don't think there was any fluke about his Wincanton form.
"Irving fell at the last and I don't think there would have been much between them so I think he's a lot better value than what Irving is to follow him (Faugheen) home, so I'd take a chance on Purple Bay each-way," added McCoy.